Emmanuel Macron’s brokers call between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon

Emmanuel Macron brokered a call on Saturday between the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Lebanon aimed at ending a diplomatic dispute that resulted in the Gulf states imposing sanctions on Iran. Beirut.

The French president, the first Western leader to visit the kingdom since the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, prompted the call during a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, during a trip to emphasize France influence in the region.

Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador and expelled the Lebanese envoy in October after Lebanese Information Minister George Kordahi criticized the Saudi-led coalition’s war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. It also banned imports from Lebanon, which is experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades. Other Gulf countries followed suit.

Macron said an important step had been taken with Saudi Arabia preparing to reopen financial cooperation with Lebanon after the first round of trilateral negotiations.

“We worked together in Lebanon and then we called [Lebanese] Prime Minister Mikati together sends a clear message from Saudi Arabia and France that we absolutely want to participate,” Macron told reporters in Jeddah.

“We want to join so we can help the Lebanese people and do everything to make economic and trade reopening possible.”

Although triggered by Kordahi’s comments, the root of the dispute between the Gulf states is the influence of the Iran-backed Hizbollah, despite the billions of dollars Saudi Arabia has provided financial aid to Beirut in the past. recent decades.

Kordahi said on Friday that he would resign at France’s request.

French officials say Saudi Arabia has agreed to send its ambassador back to Beirut, but it is unclear if they will.

France’s proposal for Lebanese prime minister Najib Miqati to visit Jeddah for a trilateral meeting with Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed was rejected.

A joint statement between Saudi Arabia and France said they had agreed a “joint mechanism” for transparent humanitarian aid to Lebanon, as well as the need to limit arms to organizations. legal state.

Western leaders have avoided visits to Saudi Arabia since the murder of Khashoggi by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. CIA concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed must have authorized the operation. He has denied any connection to Riyadh and blamed the killings on a fraudulent operation.

Macron brushed aside criticism of his visit. “Who really thinks for a second that we can help Lebanon, that we can try and maintain the stability we’re aiming for in the Middle East, if we say ‘we’re not talking to Saudi Arabia too’,” he said in Dubai on Friday.

Macron said France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, had a role to play in the discussions. “It doesn’t mean we approve or we forget,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t demand partners.”

A French official said that Saudi Arabia’s agreement to renew cooperation with Lebanon was an effective support for a high-level visit by a Western leader.

A regional official said France had escalated the pressure in the past few weeks. “With the French elections coming up, it is important for him to make progress on this record,” the official said.

Macron is being accompanied by a business delegation. In Dubai, he announced a Sale of Rafale fighter jets and helicopters worth $19 billion.

In Jeddah, the state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industry Corporation announced a joint venture with French companies Airbus and Figeac Aéro.

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